Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2013

Testing row casts shadow over Rosberg’s win

2013 Monaco Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Mercedes went into the Monaco Grand Prix as hot favourites to win. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton duly locked out the front row of the grid on Saturday.

But on the morning of the race it emerged both drivers had taken part in a secret tyre test following the last race. Red Bull and Ferrari confirmed they were lodging a protest.

Mercedes have struggled with tyre wear in the races more than any other team this year. Suddenly their form in Monaco seemed to owe less to how the low-grip track flattered the W04, and more to what they might have learned covering three Grand Prix distances in a clandestine test.

Slow starting Mercedes stay ahead

Start, 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo,Neither Mercedes driver got away particularly well when the lights went out, and Vettel took a speculative look down the inside of Rosberg. “I think I could have gone past both Mercedes but didn’t have the room, had to lift,” he said afterwards.

Rosberg went into the first corner side-by-side and that was it for Vettel’s chances of separating them, though he gave Hamilton a hard time over the opening laps.

The next cars behind them also remained in grid order. Mark Webber was followed by Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez. The first driver to have gained a position at the start was Jenson Button, who’d taken Adrian Sutil at Sainte Devote.

He’d also got down the inside of his team mate at the chicane, only for Perez to cut across the run-off to stay ahead. The same happened at the swimming pool complex, and the fact that they are team mates did not stop Button pointing out on the radio that he should be given the position.

“I know we’re both team mates but he cut the chicane when I was up the inside of him to keep the position,” he complained. It took ten laps for the stewards to intervene and Perez was fortunate they told him to hand back the place instead of issuing a penalty. Nor was it his last incident of the day.

Mercedes control the race

The Mercedes drivers controlled the pace early in the race, saving their tyres and preventing the field from spreading out – denying their pursuers the chance to pit.

“I think we could see that the field didn’t spread out,” said Vettel, “they did what worked best for them”.

“It was just basically saving tyres and making the one-stop work,” said Webber. “It was completely predictable that if the race was going to stack up then the two-stop was not really an option to come back into traffic.”

It wasn’t until lap 25 that enough of a gap had opened up behind for one of the front runners to consider making a pit stop. Webber arrived first, reappearing in a gap left by the struggling Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Raikkonen, who’d been running close behind Webber, came in next. This looked like it would present an opportunity to Alonso, who had been shadowing the pair of them, and had dropped back early apparently trying to make his tyres last longer.

On lap 28 Alonso headed for the pits and for once he wasn’t even to get ahead of Raikkonen’s Lotus – although there wasn’t much in it. This was a disappointment for Ferrari, but it was nothing compared to what happened next.

Massa shunts, Hamilton loses out

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2013Felipe Massa had started from the back row after a nasty shunt in practice kept him out of qualifying. Massa had lost control of his car on a bump approaching Sainte Devote, crunched into the barrier on the left which fired him into another barrier on the exit of the corner.

Beginning lap 29, two laps after changing to the super-soft tyres, he had a very similar accident. Massa was whisked away to hospital where the doctors found all was well, but having two similar and destructive crashes in a short space of time can’t help but have an effect on him.

It certainly had consequences for the race, as the Safety Car was summoned. Vettel made it onto the pit lane before it arrived but the Mercedes pair had to finish a lap at reduced speed, driving to the Safety Car delta time, having not caught up with it yet.

Vettel returned to the track ahead of Webber and soon caught up to the Safety Car, which waved them past on the approach to Mirabeau. While they pressed on, Rosberg was arriving in the pits. Hamilton had been told to drop back so he wouldn’t have to wait too long behind his team mate. But he allowed too much of a gap to build up, and the time lost meant he fell behind both Red Bulls.

Perez takes Alonso on

The race resumed with Rosberg now missing his rear gunner. But he had little to fear from Vettel, who while the Safety Car was out was warned by his race engineer that his tyres had been “marginal” at the end of the last stint. Rosberg was advised his tyres had more than half their life left in them.

Rosberg pulled out a 1.9 second lead over Vettel on the first flying lap while a queue developed behind the Red Bulls. Hamilton was being particularly aggressive in his pursuit of Webber, even diving down the inside at Rascasse at one point. They came out side-by-side but Webber out-accelerated him to Anthony Noghes and stayed ahead.

Behind them Alonso had the McLaren pair on his heels. Button knocked the Ferrari at the Loews hairpin and Perez took advantage. He dived down the inside of his team mate at the chicane to take back the place he’d surrendered earlier. “Checo got a really good run on me coming out of the tunnel,” Button admitted afterwards, adding “I wasn’t paying attention”.

Now Perez set his sights on Alonso. Again he took his opportunity at the chicane with an uncompromising move. Alonso, knowing that championships aren’t won by needless collisions in a contest over sixth place, cut across the chicane rather than bang wheels with the McLaren.

But he knows well enough from his own experience (Silverstone 2010 in particular) that you don’t get to do that and keep your position. Protesting on the radio that he did it “to avoid a collision” was never going to wash.

Crash stops race

Max Chilton, Marussia, Monte-Carlo, 2013Before that matter was settled an alarming crash at Tabac brought the race to a temporary stop. Max Chilton had slowed at the chicane after being passed by Esteban Gutierrez, and Pastor Maldonado had drawn alongside him at the following corner.

Chilton drifted right into Maldonado’s path, pitching the Williams into the air and heavy contact with the barriers. The impact was so great one barrier broke loose and was collected by the following Marussia of Jules Bianchi. All involved were fortunate to escape injury.

During the stoppage the remaining drivers took the opportunity to change their tyres. The stewards also told Alonso to give his place to Perez when the race resumed, which he did.

After a 25-minute minute interruption the second Safety Car restart of the day saw Rosberg resume in the lead followed by the two Red Bulls, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Button and Sutil. All bar Raikkonen had opted for super-soft tyres – the Lotus driver taking a second set of softs instead.

Sutil and Perez go on the attack

Sutil went on the attack after the restart. He caught Button completely by surprise at Loews hairpin, diving down the inside of the McLaren. Five laps later he pulled exactly the same trick on Alonso, leaving the Ferrari driver eighth. The next driver ahead was Perez and McLaren were quick to warn him of Sutil’s chosen method of attack.

Perez had his hands full trying to get past Raikkonen. The pair have already crossed paths this year and Raikkonen was none too impressed when the McLaren came down the inside of him at the chicane too quickly, forcing both to cut the corner. “That idiot would have crashed into me if I hadn’t gone straight.”

Raikkonen was even less impressed when the pair collided on lap 69. Perez came from a long way back at the chicane and Raikkonen was not inclined to give him in space, moving towards the inside. The contact between them left Raikkonen with a puncture. He limped into the pits and resumed in 16th, his chances of scoring points seemingly lost.

But as in China, for all Raikkonen’s fulminations about Perez (and there was more to come after the race), the stewards found nothing wrong with what was clearly a racing incident.

Not that Perez get away cleanly. His front wing had lost several elements but he was able to continue. More serious was the damage to his brake ducts. The discs began to overheat, forcing him to pull off. As he did Alonso tried to take advantage and claim his place back from Sutil but succeeded only in losing a position to Button.

Rosberg brings it home

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2013Rosberg had to cope with a third interruption from the Safety Car before he finally got to see the chequered flag. Romain Grosjean drove into the back of Daniel Ricciardo at the chicane, taking both out of the race.

However Rosberg never looked likely to come under threat from Vettel, even if the Red Bull driver did reel off a rapid lap on the penultimate tour “for satisfaction”.

Last year’s winner Webber joined them on the podium after a race of “just driving around, saving the tyres and waiting for the chequered flag”.

Hamilton was followed home by Sutil, Button and Alonso. The latter had a strangely off-colour day which was only partly due to picking up debris on his car during the race. He suspected poor traction was the root of his problems.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta were promoted into the points by the late race incidents. The last point was taken – remarkably – by Raikkonen. Thanks to a performance advantage in the region of four seconds on fresh tyres he picked off both Saubers and Bottas in the final two laps.

After serving a drive-through penalty for his part in the race-stopping crash, Chilton passed Giedo van der Garde for 14th two laps from home, also aided by fresher tyres.

Van der Garde has spoiled his qualifying result by crashing into Maldonado on the first lap, forcing both to pit. The other Caterham of Charles Pic had gone out with a fire early in the race.

Controversy casts shadow over race

Nico Rosberg dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. He topped all the practice sessions, took pole position and led every lap on his way to victory.

It was effectively a home race win for the German driver with a famous Finnish father, who spent much of his life in Monaco. And it came 30 years after Keke scored a memorable and brilliant Monaco win of his own.

But if Rosberg hoped any of that might take people’s minds of the controversy which came to light on the morning of the race, he was to be disappointed. The first question he faced from a journalist afterwards was: “The secret test days that you had in Barcelona – how helpful were those days for you?”

“I’m not going to comment,” Rosberg replied. “I’m not going to comment on that. You have to ask Pirelli.”

2013 Monaco Grand Prix

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Images © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Marussia

79 comments on “Testing row casts shadow over Rosberg’s win”

  1. I wonder were was this reporter to ask Nico this exact same question.
    http://youtu.be/T0FxB01S4-E?t=1m38s

    1. I know Nico probably won´t win the WDC but this secret test thing surely has me thinking.

      1. Nick.UK (@)
        27th May 2013, 0:55

        Whether there had been a test or not I think due to the nature of the track, both in terms of its low degradation and it’s overtaking prevention; it would have been Mercedes day in the sun regardless. If there are teams out there that think Mercedes only won because they did this test, then they’re just plain wrong. It’s not like Mercedes hasn’t shown its pace until today.

        1. @nick-uk lets see if you say the same thing after Canada. 1000 km of testing, MERC was bound to have learnt a thing or two about the Pirellis.

          I agree the nature of the track rewards those who start at the front but, I´m not alone when I say that I expected the MERCS to go backwards as before. Canada is where we will see what MERC learnt from the secret test.

          1. Nick.UK (@)
            27th May 2013, 15:06

            @karter22 On top of what has been said above, the main reason Mercedes didn’t fall back is because they simply blocked everyone else from overtaking. The Red Bulls said they were driving very slowly, as did McLaren. Everyone in the midfield was part of the train of cars. It’s simply a case of instead of the Mercedes being a lot slower in the race, they made everyone be slower in the race. This was only possible due to the nature on the Monaco track. We will no doubt see them fall away again in Canada.

        2. Tyres really are the stars this year. When we all expected less “tyre talking” because Monaco surface and specifics are “tyre dreg friendly”, comes the “secret tests”

          Oh my.

          1. @karter22 If your paranoia had any legs (the part about Merc, as we speak, developing new parts due to what they learned at the ‘secret’ test) then you can be sure Ferrari and Lotus would be protesting far far more loudly than they did in recent weeks regarding any changes at all being made to the tires (they fear the tires being changed out might play into Red Bull’s hands). In fact all teams, if they trully thought Merc was now able to glean enough info from the test that they are actually, as we speak, developing new parts, would be protesting massively. With something like this, the concern over tires delaminating and races needing too many pit stops at most tracks, this is a unique situation and a difficult one and is having to be dealt with kid gloves. We’d be hearing far more outrage from those within F1 if your paranoia was founded.

          2. Why would Ferrari or Lotus complain? From their point of view, the only good part of this horrible weekend was the fact that Mercedes prevented Vettel from winning. Overall, Mercedes’ advantage meant some benefit for them.

        3. As the protest was not so much against this race results (as confirmed by Dominicaly, and I think by Marko too), as against the test as such, its pretty heavily over the top to talk about a dirty win.

          We saw many people have trouble get enough heat into their tyres (it took app. 3 laps to get them there in the race), I think it was always one that would favour Mercedes who have been getting too much heat in theirs in many races.

    2. I think for anyone who even thinks about calling this a dirty victory, just read what Mark Webber had to say about it in the post race press conference, and then retract your ott statements:

      (Jacqueline Magnay – News LTD Australia) Mark, I’m just wondering whether you have an opinion on this secret tyre testing, whether it had any impact, and whether you think there was any advantage to Mercedes having done the testing?

      MW: That’s a fair question. I think we were probably a little bit surprised that it happened. I don’t think it probably had a huge bearing on today’s result. I think their car was always going to perform pretty well round here, to be fair, but yeah, you can’t unlearn what went on at the test obviously, so we need to see how the test came about and whether it’s within the rules or not. I’m sure Mercedes thought it was OK, so that’s why they did it, so time will tell. But I don’t think it affected today’s result.

      1. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey)
        27th May 2013, 11:52

        @BasCB This is why I love Webber. He just gets it.

        1. @magnificent-geoffrey Vettel said the same

          I think all over the paddock, no one doubts Mercedes victory here. Afterall, they’ve been tipping them favourites to win since Barcelona (mind, before the “not-secret-we-just-didn’t-say-anything” test).

  2. Newey saying that it wasn’t in the spirit of the sporting regs really does take the biscuit( bendy wing merchants ), and normally the man on pole at Monaco usually goes on to win, red bull are a team I find very hard not to dislike.

    1. Ah, the spirit of regultations ! Must be my favourite lie in the world :)

  3. 1 Question i would like to know is. If this was in fact a test requested by pirelli in relation to the tyre problems merc suffered in the spanish race, Would they have had enough time to bring in spare engines and gearboxes to do this 2 day test since they would not have used allocated race engines or gearboxes? Or do they bring a lot of spares just in case.

    1. My Questions

      1) In the era of Super-equipped , super-spy journalism with high connections, how can such a test go unnoticed. The running of a formula 1 car can be heard miles away. How can such a clandestine operations go unnoticed ? In the smartphone era where even the cheapest of the devices have a camera on it combined with the Twitter , instagram, Facebooks of the world how can this be pulled off especially in Barcelona where the race had just completed ?

      2) Mercedes for sure knows the rule books and the implications. Will they afford to do something like this to taint their legacy if there was’nt some sense of legality to it ?

      1. Exactly @tmax

        1) the test did not remain a secret for long and since other teams have been offered to help Pirelli test, it was hardly a secret. I suspect it just seems secretive in that Pirell/F1 got to a point where they have needed to react to today’s overly aggressive tires quickly and did not have time for meeting after meeting to get a concensus on which team should test when techniquely every team could find reasons why any team might potentially gain an advantage and therefore no team would be given the nod. At some point F1 and Pirelli just had to go ahead and do this and they likely thought better a team that is not currently in the top 3 and are one that is hard on the rear tires which would give Pirelli a useful opportunity to see what tires they can proceed with for all teams, that have shown on the Merc to do better in the rear.

        2) Exactly…the didn’t, all on their own, decided to break the in-season testing ban, AND get Pirelli to co-conspire with them. AND expect to gain an advantage AND get away with it.

        Bottom line for me…whatever the rules are, these are the circumstances: uniquely Pirelli is a sole tire maker for F1 and has been asked to shake up the show in their current tenure in F1 with ‘gadgety’ tires that are degrady and cliffy. Uniquely, they when a step too far and F1 and Pirelli now have to work together to tweak things without changing the tires and the season too drastically. If an exception to the in-season testing ban has to be instigated, so be it. Right now the tires are unsafe and the teams/drivers/fans are almost overwhelmingly against the type of delta time ‘racing’ we are having to watch (hence SV’s fast lap at the end of Monaco just to show the world how fast he could have gone, but just not sustainably so on these tires). Desperate times make for desperate measures.

  4. @keithcollantine

    Hamilton had been told to drop back so he wouldn’t have to wait too long behind his team mate. But he allowed too much of a gap to build up, and the time lost meant he fell behind both Mercedes Red Bulls.

  5. In Ted Kravitz’s report, on the sky website, he states the race result is official, therefore it cannot be changed.

    1. They could still get the points docked I guess. It’s a bit of a dilemma for the FIA as they can hardly ban Merc from the rest of the championship at this point, and Merc aren’t going to forget whatever they learned.

      1. Well, banning from next 1-2 races should be enough to take away their advantage. And its only way I can see..

      2. They would have to ban Pirelli for doing something wrong then @george, not sure how that would work out!

        1. why, they arent a team. Pirelli can do what they like really.

          They would of rubbed their hands together when merc turn up with current car.

          Might effect them getting a contract next year tho. If they even want it.

    2. You can be excluded from races after the fact. This happened to Tyrrell in 1984 after their fuel infringement was exposed – their drivers were retrospectively excluded from every race they had participated in, and their points redistributed to the drivers who finished behind them. Only after a championship season officially ends (around the end of November, when the FIA ratifies the results of the world championship) are the race results set in stone. That’s why Renault couldn’t be stripped of their Singapore victory even after Crashgate was exposed.

      In practice, though, it’s very unlikely that a race result would be changed retrospectively like that in this day and age. Tyrrell’s punishment all those years ago was only so harsh because the team had already fallen out of favour with the FIA due to their well-publicised opposition to turbo engines.

    3. What it means is that in all of the record books it will be written down as a victory for Rosberg, although the FIA can say that Mercedes are not allowed the points that they gained from the race or ban them from the championship, which is highly unlikely. The official, set in stone, results are confirmed by the stewards after they have sorted out all of the incidents. But, the points and such are not, set in stone, until the FIA confirm them at the end of September.

  6. The secret test was a flagrant and egregious violation of the sporting regulations. Anything less than an exclusion from the championship would be a travesty of justice. But that’s par for the course in F1, isn’t it?

    The only way for the one-team test that they conducted to be in any way fair would be for representatives from every team to be present and have access to ALL of the data that was collected.

    1. I’d really like to know how, in such a tight-knit and closely self-monitored sport like Formula 1, this test could possibly have been secret.

      As for banning Mercedes, I say go for it. Over-reacting self-destruction all the way, why not? Because Red Bull have never bent or broken a single rule on the way to their titles, have they? Or Ferrari? Or McLaren? It would have a fantastic outcome for sure, banning Mercedes, losing a top manufacturer, removing two title contenders from any further participation, months of legal issues instead of racing. Top idea you have there.

      1. Apparently other teams were offered the chance to offer up their cars for testing.

        Question…if Red Bull was the most vocal proponents for changes to the tires why wouldn’t they have happily agreed to test new tires and invite all other teams to be present, for the good of the sport, and for safety, and for better racing for the rest of the season? Or if it is so advantages to be the guinea pigs, why didn’t they happily volunteer to be the sole team at the Pirelli test?

        I suggest that Merc was chosen because others were given the opportunity but didn’t step up the same way Merc did, and Merc is a less volatile team to pick on since they are not fighting in the top 3 right now and are struggling a great deal with their rear tires. The intent being not to help solely Merc with their rear tire issue, but they make a good benchmark for Pirelli to confirm that the tires they may next present to the teams will have been shown on the Mercs to be an improvement to some degree…less degrady and less delaminaty. ie. if the tires have been doing better on the Ferraris’ and the Lotus’ then those cars won’t reveal as much useful info to Pirelli. If they let Red Bull do the test (the most vocal team who also leads the Championship and has won 3 in a row), then the paranoia factor within and without F1 would be through the roof and the accusations would be rampant for the rest of the year and there would be a huge asterisk beside their wins and (potential) championships this year.

  7. It’s hard to imagine that Merc would undertake something so blatantly obvious (to anyone who cared to pay attention) as this tire test if they weren’t convinced of the legality of it. That said, it does appear to be a bit strange, and it will certainly be interesting to see how this (not really so secret) test plays out.

  8. I have to quibble a bit with how this test gate thing is being run up here. It’s already like 3 posts into this thing, where it has been called “clandestine,” “secret,” and other things. We’ve been assured that MB obvioulsy got important data from the test. We’ve been assured that these data were the reason for their success at Monaco. None of these things are facts or inferences based on facts. With regard to the secrecy, the idea that in the small F1 community, that MB pulled off some Zero Dark Thirty-level covert opertion to engage in a test with Pirelli at the Ciruit de Catalunya days after a GP with their fully test-systems and personnel on the scene is bizarre. The assertion, repeated without comment, that Ferrari and Red Bull made their protest, this morning, when they “learned” of the test, is therefore an obvious prevarication.

    As far as the legality, well he is saying and she is saying stuff but as for the FIA, they have said two material things about the permission and the policy: 1. it should have been open to all teams and 2. it should have been run by Pirelli. With regard to 1, Pirelli have said that they offered the test to otheres, including the complainants, and furthermore that others, including one complainant, availed itself of a previous similar offer. Regarding 2., MB is on record saying they didn’t get the data and there is no information that the test was run with normal MB telemetry systems or that the data were provided to them after the fact. Accordingly, the question of whether the ban on in season testing hangs on whether it was MB-testing or Pirelli-testing.

    Further to this issue with whether the offer was universal, let’s think about this for a second. The nature of the test means that Pirelli asks a number of candidates if they want to participate and they choose one from among those to respond. It would be really dumb for them to try to organize a test on a certain tire spec by having 11 cars running around the track. You can’t have a “test” without a baseline, and for this you only want to use one car, becuase they are all different. The other 10 running around would just be wasting the product and clogging up the track.

    Then there are these rumors about Ferrrari getting a test but only using an old car. It’s quite amazing for Ferrari to come out guns blazing against MB by first admitting that they too got a “secret” test. It would only seem that they are mad that MB supposedly got a better “secret” test. They are trying to be very cute by suggesting that that data on current tires with an old car are much better than data on next-year tires with the current car. Hogwash. Why exactly was there a test at all on the old rusty 2010 or whatever car (it gets older by the minute) if the data were not valuable as to current tires? In any case, presumably in neither sitiuation did the team get the data, am I right, Ferrrari? So their accusations are turning more questions against themselves than MB at the moment it seems to me.

    Regarding Monaco, it’s a bit much to claim that the victory has a “cloud” over it because nowhere has it been established, against clear denials, that MB got the benefit of data on the tires to be used at Monaco, or anywhere else this season, in the “secret” test. Furthermore, as everyone was saying before the race, this would be the track where MB tire problems would be of the least concern, due to low speed, low grip surface, etc. There is no “cloud” here.

    If it turns out that Mercedes were running the test, and collecting data alongside Pirelli, then they will have breached the test-ban. Rather, the incident would be a present conflict between two standing rules or policies. In either case, the best resolution would be to have the team disseminate to all teams any data they got from the test. It would give respect to “equities.” And, given the information that his may divulge about their car in general, it should be more than a pound of flesh for those now out for blood.

    1. Very valid points. The thing that bothers me most about the whole tire controversy situation is that Red Bull are somewhat likely to win the drivers and constructors championships even without all the protests, lobbying, complaining and whatever else they can do to influence the results in the off track arena. To me, this detracts from everything they are doing in a positive way on the track. It’s one thing to protest a possible rules violation. But, nearly every comment is a whing, snivel and complaint about how unfair everything is for them, while they are leading both championships! Enough already. File your complaints to the proper authorities, keep a stiff upper lip and race hard.

      Anyways, @dmw your evaluation and solutions make a lot of sense.

    2. ku (@kutovat)
      27th May 2013, 3:54

      @ DaveW: totally agree with your comment – very fair assessment

    3. The fact that testing took place under the circumstances that are at question, nullifies your first paragraph. If action are not taken, other teams will find them self at point of no return or that it will be late to object to anything. That is why, at least a note inviting rest of the teams must have been issued prior to testing.

      We are not even talking about the fact, that in light of discussion of revised compounds, this years car was used. I think Red Bull and Ferrari are at right to raising their concerns.

    4. very solid post @dmw

    5. @dmw

      there are these rumors about Ferrrari getting a test but only using an old car. It’s quite amazing for Ferrari to come out guns blazing against MB by first admitting that they too got a “secret” test.

      You are contradicting yourself here, I think. It is either a rumor, or it is a certainty if the team has admitted it .

    6. @dmw
      James Allen has a very good article about this on his blog: http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2013/05/what-was-behind-mercedes-and-pirelli-secret-f1-tyre-test/

      In Pirelli’s agreement with the FIA they can call for a team to supply them with a car for testing, especially where there are urgent question marks over safety. After the recent spate of tyre failures – the first being Mercedes’ spectacular failure with Lewis Hamilton which caused him to take a five place grid penalty in Bahrain as it broke his gearbox – there was a need to test. Ferrari conducted a ‘secret’ 500km test with a 2011 car before the Spanish Grand Prix, while Mercedes ran for three days (15th-17th May) at Barcelona after the other teams had packed up and left.

      When I spoke to Pirelli’s Paul Hembery about this he said that he wrote to all teams last year inviting them to make themselves available for this kind of work. Some said yes and others said no. After the failures in Bahrain emails went around and Pirelli was granted the opportunity to test. The tests were set up with Ferrari and Mercedes, although neither knew about the other’s test. Ferrari ran a 2011 car with Pedro de la Rosa at the wheel.

      Mercedes is known to be hardest on its tyres with peak temperatures some 20 degrees above what other teams have been experiencing and it was the victim of the Hamilton failure in Bahrain. The tyres tested in Spain were a mixture of development products; some solutions for Montreal addressing the delamination problems, some ideas for 2014.

      Pirelli says that they did not tell Mercedes what tyres they were testing, so they had no reference points.

      James Allen appears to have come to the same conclusion as me when he said:

      This issue is not about testing, it’s about F1′s dysfunctionality at this moment.

      As with almost every scandal in recent F1 history this is looking more and more like a case of FIA incompetence creating problems that could easily be avoided.

    7. Surely the major difference between the Mercedes and Ferrari tests is that testing with an old car is legal under the sporting regulations; using the current car is not. It has nothing to do with how valuable the tests were to each team, and everything to do with what the rules actually say.

    8. @dmw

      I think it’s quite valid to say that there’s a shadow over Rosberg’s victory, even though I don’t believe that the test affected the result. Just the fact that instead of all the talk being about his victory, it’s about this “secret” test, means that there’s a shadow over his victory as attention is taken away from his great drive.

      Apart from that, very good points you bring up and also thanks to @beneboy for the James Allen article, gives some very good insight into the issue.

  9. I don’t profess to know the circumstances surrounding this test, but surely Mercedes didn’t just pull some Pirellis out of their hats. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an emergency test orchestrated by F1 and Pirelli, using Mercedes, to figure out the best and fairest solutions for tires, post-delamination and 4-stopper era. Mercedes are not in the top 3, are a distant 4th, and yet are enough of a ‘have’ team, and a good benchmark because of their extra abuse of the rears and their rampant falling backwards on race days, such that they are a viable option to use.

    I’m guessing Merc was privy to very little of the data that Pirelli compiled. I’m also confident Merc didn’t have tires that were any different than anyone elses at Monaco (not that this is being suggested and I realize it is about what knowledge they may have gained from said test). And I’m confident whatever Pirelli learned in terms of the tires they will be going with for the rest of the season, Mercedes does not know which of the ones they ran on will be offered up. That’s about the only thing I can think of that makes any sense at first blush. Why the secret? I’d say because if they tried to get a concensus from the teams, no team would be decided upon, as any team they pick would be viewed or suspected as having an advantage, and certainly the most volatile thing to do would have been to let a current top 3 team be the guinea pig. They couldn’t have used RBR, Ferrari, or Lotus.

    And I also think the new gen tires will not be drastically different…Pirelli can’t do that when all teams have formed their current chassis to the existing tires. So I think Merc will ultimately still eat rears on tracks that aren’t Monaco, moreso than the other teams, just less than they have been, and I won’t be surprised that for all the whining about Pirelli changing tires to ones advantage and another’s disadvantage, I think it will be marginal and the order should pretty much remain as it has been…I know that is certainly Pirelli’s wish and greatest hope…come up with a better tire without affecting any one team to the advantage of others.

  10. If someone doesn’t use some common sense soon over this issue, I can see Pirelli not revising the tyres for this season and withdrawing their offer of being the tyre supplier next year. Pirelli are on record already of saying they need to know soon, so they can supply the teams 2014 tyre data by September, as per regulations, if they have the next contract.

  11. This is to Every fantics and speacially to Kieth… Just let me know What sort of a penalty are looking for from FIA if MERC are fouund guilty.
    just curious to know ….

  12. But he allowed too much of a gap to build up, and the time lost meant he fell behind both Mercedes.

    I’m going to assume you mean Red Bull there :D

  13. If Merc would’ve showed up to Monaco and sucked would this even be a discussion right now?

    1. @fisha695 No not really, but it would have come up in the following races, this was an issue in waiting for sure. However, for Nico to be fastest in all 3 practise sessions, get pole and win the race, really is a dream come true… So, rightly so, it should be scrutinised to find out if they did gain intelligence from the test.

      My main concern is, that Merc came out and played out a strategy that has never been used before Monaco, granted, its a lot harder to keep the field behind you at other tracks, however, none the less, its a brand new strategy to drive so slowly to keep the tyres together, the top 19 were within a pitstop gap of 24secs by about lap 15, I would doubt that has ever happened before in the sports history…

  14. Was there anything to ban Checo and Chilton? Perez was bold but he did to many Senna’s, thankfully Raikkonen said enough is enough if you’re not going to make the corner at least be penalised for it, obviously who’s losing here is Raikkonen. Chilton made a rookie mistake, he could have killed someone.

  15. I bet the tyres they tested, are the compounds that will be introduced in Canada :D

  16. This tire test just shows how stupid the FIA structure is. Allowing Merc to run the test with the actual car was bound to blow up in their faces and even if Pirelli has the contractual right to do this test – why is a suppliers contract superseding the sporting regulations? If this turns out to be legal then any team could ask their suppliers to but a clause in the contract and use this loophole to perform in-season testing. I know I’m oversimplifying it, but principally that’s what happened here.

    1. But the root of the issue is that Pirelli, uniquely, has been asked, as the tire maker, to make their tires a big factor in the racing, by F1. And uniquely, they took said tires a step too far over last year’s tires, and we have the potential for too many stops in some races, and tires delaminating. And thus the need for some in-season testing and some tweaking to the tires…a very difficult situation as some teams did better reacting to the specs they were given last September than others, and now could be hurt if changes to the tires mid-season help some of the struggling teams (Pirelli is hoping for and trying to make the new tires help everyone equally).

      So anyway, I think this is a unique and unfortunate set of circumstances, borne by, imho, too much meddling and concern over gadgety racing creating the action rather than relying on driver vs. driver creating the action, and therefore clauses in contracts for in-season tire testing are not what is needed here.

  17. Quoting from the article above :
    Last year’s winner Webber joined them on the podium after a race of “just driving around, saving the tyres and waiting for the chequered flag”.

    This sentence says it all. Let’s just drive and enjoy the landscape, no rush, just waiting for the race to end, why bother…

  18. Nothing to do with the testing controversy but I have found something that connects all 3 of Sundays winners and well I just have to share it before I head off to bed.

    Kanaan tested for BAR-Honda, BAR would go on to become Mercedes which Rosberg drives for now, Rosberg drove for Williams while that team was sponsored by Budwieser, Kanaan drove for Andretti while that team (ok it was Dario’s car but still the same team) was sponsored by Budwieser, and of course Kevin Harvick is currently sponsored by Budwieser.

  19. Hi! This testing is a joke. A number of questions:
    _ How come didn’t Pirelli choose at least 2 different teams to test with?
    _ Why didn’t they choose small teams with budget issues?
    _ Why didn’t they do 200km with 5 different teams?
    _ Why didn’t they choose at random and informed everyone before choosing?

    Bad bad bad, I think…

    1. It all boils down to the fact that we really do not know whether they offered, whether teams refused @JS. Just think about it, you are supplying Pirelli your current car, in between races, running some of your GBs and engines and you yourself get NO data from it, nor are you allowed to run new parts. I am not sure every team would like it, and its well possible that smaller teams would not even want to risk a chassis at this time of the year, instead sending it up to the factory for the regular checkup, repaint etc.

      The thing with testing only short stretches on several cars is, you get more information about the cars, but less on how the tyres hold up, as you won’t be running different several sets of one type on the same car, and are unlikely to get a good picture of running several types on the same car to compare too.

      1. Actually, I agree with what you say, you have points here (I wasn’t sure about how much datas the team gets). As to whether they asked other teams, we do not know so we’ll see but given the reactions, it seems they didn’t (but, who knows if the other teams aren’t just playing…).

        So your post does moderate my views. As for 1 car versus several, on the other hand why choosing a team whose car apparently behaves in a non-understood way regarding tyres? (Or, maybe the Mercedes guys understand but do not know how to solve it.)

        Still a question: why testing with a 2013 car? Next year, anyway, cars will be different (with a different motor even); why not testing with a 2010 car? (I don’t think it’s a budget issue, especially for a team like Mercedes: SCH just ran in a 2010 or 2011 car in Germany, and they just paid 120 000 € to reimburse photographs following HAM nice jet-sky ride!)…

        1. Personally, I think there was some urgency here. There has been an implication here that at some point other teams were given a chance to do this test, but when it came down to it I don’t think F1/Pirelli had much time for the teams to gather up a concensus and have a vote nor was there time or the need to have more than one team at the test confusing the data for Pirelli. Merc are hard on their rears, so a great team to use in order to see what other tires do better on Merc’s back end. Using a team that is already easier on the rears would be less useful for garnishing data. Using a top 3 team would invite more paranoia and complaints. Waiting for all teams to agree to something would have likely meant Pirelli would not have gotten the opporunity to nail down the best options going forward, in what is a very difficult situation for them and for F1. Pirelli has already acknowledged that lack of testing of these tires particularly in hotter climates is what caught them out. How would it look for them and for F1 if they changed the tires to prevent too many stops, and delamination, only to find they still haven’t fixed these issues with an in-season change without proper testing to confirm that the changes would work and be good for the rest of the season. Pirelli only has one shot at making changes that work to satisfy everyone as maximally as possible. And even then, the horses may have already left the barn in that regard…for some, any change they make at this point is going to help some and hurt others even if said hurt only comes in the form of helping others.

  20. Nice picture of the start, Keith. It actually looks as if Hamilton got a decent start, going from 7 metres behind Rosberg to half a car length in front. Not taking risks at the first corner in Monaco is the sensible thing to do, of course, but I wonder whether Lewis, seeing this picture, would regret not contesting the lead at the first corner, seeing how the race panned out.

    What really puzzles me about yesterday’s race is Mercedes’ reaction to the safety car. First, why were both cars driving around so slowly on their way to the pits? They were actually very lucky that Vettel was picked up by the safety car and held up for a couple of corners, but still Rosberg came out only just in front (I think) and Hamilton was overtaken by both Red Bulls. If I recall correctly, Webber came out comfortably in front of Hamilton, so even if Hamilton had been stacked up behind Rosberg, he would probably still have fallen behind Vettel. I don’t know for sure, though. Does anyone have any data on how much time Hamilton lost in the pits, and how far he came out behind Vettel and Webber?

    What I also found very surprising was that Mercedes did not immediately pull their cars into the pits when Massa crashed. I understand they were reluctant to pit as they were finally doing quick laps (they were the fastest cars on track, faster than anyone who had stopped), but if the safety car had been deployed 30 seconds earlier, Hamilton and Rosberg would have been behind the safety car, the only ones on old tyres, and they would have struggled to score any points at all.

  21. I was somewhat surprised that Alonso was asked to relinquish his position to Perez after that attempted “Hail Mary” overtaking maneuver.
    And it was somewhat funny that Martin Brundle in one breath said that drivers need to leave room when attempting an overtaking maneuver then in another breath saying that Alonso needs to relinquish his position when Perez did not leave any room for Alonso,forcing him to run straight on.

    I am also surprised by the news that Merc had a clandestine test session with Pirelli.
    I would hope that all the other teams are allowed to have a similar test session and/or Merc should be penalised.

  22. Can anyone explain the difference between Van De Garde crashing into Maldonado, Grosjean hitting Ricciardo, and Perez taking on Raikkonen? I saw three overly aggressive moves/mistakes, yet only Grosjean is heavily penalized.

  23. So the super-secret tire test row is basically down to whether they asked other teams to participate or not. Pirelli says they did, a year ago, some teams refused, some didn’t even reply ( http://formula-one.speedtv.com/article/f1-paul-hembery-defends-pirelli-on-mercedes-formula-one-test-row/ ) . Now Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be mostly upset not by the fact that the test has occurred, but with the fact they used at least some current tires. To me it looks like everyone knew about the test, they just didn’t expect to gain anything form it. Now as it seems that Mercedes gained something there is an outrage.

    Hembery’s explanations don’t add up in their entirety. The same goes for the perceived gains for Mercedes. As they were not allowed to gather data, they didn’t know which compounds they were running etc. I don’t think anything could be gained. Also Mercedes performance in Monaco doesn’t make the picture any clearer. Everybody knew that Mercedes have the best chance of wining in Monaco due to the nature of the track. It’s not by any means representative of overall performance of the car. Nor the tire degradation which said car produces.

    1. Sure, @cyclops_pl, Mercedes was foreseen to be very strong at Monaco, and they were. It’s no surprise they won and probably not related to the testing (though, as VET pointed out, it probably did not harm them; even with no access to datas, you at least get the drivers’ feedback). But the question about the test remains:

      _ why using 2013 cars to test for the tyres, especially given the big changes forthcoming next year?

      1. @js

        This is exactly the thing which doesn’t add up in Hembery’s explanations. The in-season test is for emergency reasons, thus it is done to test current tires. That’s why they use a current car. Using old Renault chassis doesn’t make any sense and probably is one of the reasons the current-spec tires are behaving badly. Pirelli needed this test and needed it fast, so they didn’t bother to ask all teams for the second time as it would take time. Time Pirelli don’t have before Montreal. And this is where they put their foot wrong. They also underestimated F1’s politics, the area Red Bull and Ferrari are very capable in.

        1. @cyclops_pl but then one thing I don’t understand: they said that 90% of the test concerned tyres for next year, and only 10% for Montreal. Next year cars will be different from this year, as 2011 were for that year, anyway…
          So, either this information is wrong, or something else is very wrong here…

          [We could also wonder why doing the test with the current pilots, and not Mercedes (or Pirelli; maybe more delicate) test drivers…]

          1. @cyclops_pl

            Now as it seems that Mercedes gained something there is an outrage.

            I don’t think there is an overwhelming feeling that Merc has gained something. If there is the possibility that the testing team would gain something (which to me would mean Pirelli would have had to share data which I don’t think they did) then why wouldn’t all teams be fighting very hard to help Pirelli do this test?

            They also underestimated F1′s politics, the area Red Bull and Ferrari are very capable in.

            I doubt highly that Pirelli underestimated F1’s politics…they’re living it as we speak and have been since their tires came under scrutiny, even last year when drivers complained they couldn’t push their cars to the limits, let alone this year. I also think Pirelli would be highly aware of how volatile this test would have been if in fact they did it with a current top 3 team.

            @js

            but then one thing I don’t understand: they said that 90% of the test concerned tyres for next year, and only 10% for Montreal.

            I’m guessing they said this because they know they can’t change the tires drastically this season…just enough to dissuade the need for 4 stop races, and to elimate the delaminations, but not enough to totally change each teams’ chassis/tire relationship that they developed based on tire specs they got last September for using toward this year’s chassis’.

            As Hemberey has hinted at, and assuming they are the tire maker for next year… next year the cars with their new engine packages and hence drastically new chassis, will on their own shake things up on the grid presumably, and so degrady tires may be needed much less so to help shake things up in F1 and make for multiple potential winners throughout the season and no processions nor one team running away with the Championship. ie. expect next years tires, whoever makes them, to be much less relied upon to shake things up. Next years tires will be more stable and it will be a chassis/engine contest next year rather than a tire conservation contest like this year.

  24. he [Hamilton] fell behind both Mercedes.

    Surely you meant both Red Bulls. Now moderate me out.

  25. Hamilton had been told to drop back so he wouldn’t have to wait too long behind his team mate. But he allowed too much of a gap to build up, and the time lost meant he fell behind both Mercedes.

    Both Redbulls

    ps, this post is the only one on the front page with out a photo of a f1 car driving at the camera directly head on!

  26. @keithcollantine Meticulously (in a positive way) detailed review as always, great to relive the awesome moments. Just one small typo (may have been pointed out earlier in the comments). ‘Massa shunts, Hamilton loses out’ part, last line. It should be ‘…fell behind both Red Bulls.’

  27. Well all these rows and disputes are going to rage on and on. Its now ridicolous the tyre debate, no concorde agreement, disputes over engine costs and now this. I take Ross Brawn on every word he says but why did they use Rosberg and Hamilton if it was no benefit. Sam Bird was at Barcelona and he could have done it. Why were Pirelli called to the stewards’ if they are adamant that there was a contract in place to do a tyre test. Surely this whole thing has become a mess, Bernie has his own issues the teams cant agree on anything we as fans aren’t really enjoying it. Pirelli are taking all the heat and may leave the sport. Its just a mess and its not ending soon.

  28. Wouldn’t the FIA of needed to have one of its officials present at this test?

  29. After a couple days of everyone throwing in an oppinion and working it for their own gain, and making Mercedes either look bad or good, lets just stop. think to yourself this………. as this is what has happened:

    There is a testing ban on in F1, and the mercedes team who are struggling with their tyre-wear just did a 3 day test with Pirelli in their current with their current drivers.

    Ok, now lets stop the poletics and disqualify this immoral and unsportive team that did not follow FIA regulations. There is a precedent with Mclaren being disqualified a few years ago. It’s irrelevant if Mercedes do get an advantage (which they surely have), as even Mclaren may or may not have got an advantage in the Spy-gate saga. If the FIA have no balls to do this, since Mercedes seem to be the most powerful politically now, even more so then Ferrari, then they should at least organise a 3 day test for the other teams.
    If that does not happen, i hope the other teams find loopholes to even the score, like testing the Wheel Rims for 3 weeks, the wheel rim companies can say the construction of their wheels is important to safe tyre wear :P they can write up new contracts with Ferrari and Red Bull, and make a stipulation about testing, which will go other the top of any FIA sporting codes.

    This whole thing is so dodgy, but too many people are putting their lawyer hats on, the worst of those, as usual is Ross Brawn.

    1. Sounds like you actually think Merc did this test on their own even though in-season testing is banned. Surely you don’t think this is actually what happened and that Merc would think they were going to get away with said secret test? And how do explain then Pirelli going along with it and secretly supplying tires to Merc for the test? Surely you don’t think Pirelli would happily agree to help Merc this way, and not expect to get caught or for it to have massive ramifications?

      I would think that if it was as you suggest, then today’s headlines would read “Mercedes eliminated from 2013 Championships” and “Pirelli fined $100 mill for secretly helping Mercedes” (they can’t eliminate Pirelli from the Championship as that would end the F1 season).

      1. yes i do think that, and i think they probably just assume they can get away with it with rule loopholes and except the FIA not to come down on them because they are such a major player now in F1. i would not be surprised to see that type of headline in the next few days, infact i am expecting it. If Mclaren got such a penalty, then so should Mercedes. autosport website has just quoted a 2012 email which suggests that this test could only be conducted with unanimous agreement by all teams, which hasnt happened. I think Mercedes rolled the dice, 4th or 5th place is nothing – they took the 50/50 chance to go up higher this year, but i do not think they will get away with it.

        1. Well I vehemently disagree, but if you want to stick to your guns and suggest Mercedes did this on their own and against the rules due to there being no unanimous agreement, then what do you have to say about Pirelli therefore being a co-conspirator since Merc would have needed tires in order to test? If you don’t think Mercedes will get away with it, then what is your suggested penalty for Pirelli? You don’t seem to implicate them whatsoever. Or are they the ‘they’ you refer to in your first few lines above in that ‘they’ are such a major player now in F1, that what…they can do whatever they want in your mind, and get away with it? Your argument is not making sense to me.

          If Merc decided on their own to try to get away with a 3 day test at a time of in-season testing being banned (something that would seem impossible to get away with to begin with) not to mention would show them to be amongst the most cheaty and immoral teams in the history of F1, then surely at the same time all the teams would be asking for the immediate resignation of Pirelli, or since they need tires for the rest of the season and they are the only tire makers, then a massive fine for them.

      2. as for pirelli, i dont think they will be accused of “conspiring” with mercedes, they did less wrong then mercedes, they do not follow FIA rules, they more follow their contract.

        1. If this test was not about Pirelli needing help to test tires that will be an improvement for everybody going forward, that won’t require 4 stoppers and won’t delaminate, and instead was about them helping Mercedes with a 3 day test to help them do better in the Championships, then you think the other teams are going to just sit on their hands and do nothing? Gimme a break. You are suggesting an F1 that is far more corrupt than is imaginable by even the most paranoid.

          1. the other teams will not sit on their hands, THEY ARE ALREADY NOT, so you go have a break. it is not paranoia, it is f1 with lawyers and poletics. mercedes are trying to get one up over others because they have suddenly become important, they have sudden political power this year, and they have not much to lose trying this – if they are excluded from the championship – well at least they will still get better race results for the rest of the year, no one will care anymore at the end of the year, or next year when they may have more momentum, they didnt for mclaren after their exclusion. as for pirelli, . barcelona was the hardest on tyres on all f1 tracks as always. pirelli know this more then anyone else, and they do not need a 2013 mercedes to help them with tyre stops and delaminations, as monaco has shown. Pirelli are covered legally more then an f1 team is, they will get away with it. Mercedes will not – although Mercedes are such a rubish team (considering their budget), that Redbull and Ferrari may not follow this up if the protest is refused, they know the Mercedes history since 2010, they can not develop a car and 1000km of testing for them is like 200km for other teams, so if results do not flow for mercedes, all may be forgotten.

          2. Lol…Merc is suddenly important, and suddenly have political power? How so? And so much political power that they figure they’ll get away with this, or if excluded, so what? What rubbish.

            And you claim Pirelli did not need a 2013 Merc to help them with tire stops and delaminations…so why would the collude with Merc then and risk showing favouritism by providing tires for Merc’s test? Not that it was Merc’s test, it was Pirelli’s test anyway.

            Your argument holds no water.

  30. So, it seems the Ferrari test was nothing more than a Corsi Clienti promo.

    @keithcollantine I hope you’re satisfied now?

    1. @wsrgo Thanks for the tip.

  31. I expect Mercedes will show a piece of paper from the FIA saying the test was kosher. If Mercedes is accused of cheating and fined, Daimler-Benz (the parent company) may well sell the team and leave F1 – there have been numerous grumblings in recent years from the board in any case. Pirelli would almost certainly quit the sport if they are found to be guilty of some infraction and fined so close to signing a new contract.

    So the question is: given the already thin grid, will the F1 authorities want to see a leading team quit, possibly suddenly, and have to find another tyre supplier on short notice for next season? Moreover, what will the bods at Honda make of this, especially in light of the Ecclestone-Gribkowski bribery allegations? Investing in F1 is a big money game. If F1 looks uncertain, precarious, or even possibly rigged in favour of certain teams, I doubt we’ll see any serious new entrants, and the likes of Honda may not stay for long.

    Accordingly, I expect we’ll get “clarification” on the testing rules and there will be “reprimands” for Mercedes and Pirelli.

    But the bigger picture is that F1 needs a stronger, more transparent and accountable hand in charge. The secretive, private, and seemingly corrupt ways of the last 25 years have got to come to an end.

    1. I don’t even think we will see reprimands for Merc and Pirelli. I think this was a necessary test, likely agreed to by F1 and Pirelli and Mercedes. Other teams had been offered to help test, and given all the buzz about tires needing to be tweaked this season as Pirelli has gotten it a bit wrong, you’d think that teams, if it was so advantages to help Pirelli, would be lined up to be the guinea pigs.

      F1 is meddling with gadgety racing these days…degrady tires and DRS…to mix up the show and try to prevent any one team running away with the Championships. Pirelli, with F1’s blessing, have made gadgety tires and have taken it a step too far this year. They need tweaking and that rarely happens. But F1 has to take some of the onus on themselves since they are the ones that have asked Pirelli to do as they have…just not go quite so far as they have and that’s an unfortunate happenstance.

      Under the circumstances I think F1 and Pirelli needed to do this test with Merc and imho better them than a team that is in the top 3. And better them than to not do the test at all and everyone suffers for the rest of the season with ‘racing’ to delta times.

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